Bcee’s Fourth Album, Northpoint, Is On Point
Posted by Ben on 6th September 2017
A while ago we described our experiences at Spearhead’s takeover of Lightbox in London, a night of floor-filling liquid, LED covered walls and double vodka Red Bulls. It was also Bcee’s birthday, a personal milestone for the Spearhead boss which I suspect will rank lower in his mind than his latest, the release of his fourth album – Northpoint.
Birthdays are inevitable whilst your fourth album is anything but, a serious achievement even for the man who’s now-successful label started life on a laptop in an internet cafe. Bcee’s music has always encapsulated the style Spearhead has pushed and Northpoint continues that trend, except this time around the sound is smoother and more well-polished than ever before.
It’s one of several hotly anticipated albums this summer has brought us and whilst its 8th of September release date technically puts it in the autumn, summery ambience is an integral part of what makes Northpoint worth listening to.
The title track is back-to-basics Bcee in the best possible way. He’s built up a reputation for his strolling journeys through vocal powered drum n bass and as such there’s no better accompaniment than Riya to epitomize that notoriety. Riya is as big a vocal veteran as they come in drum n bass and Northpoint isn’t lined with frills or gimmicks – it doesn’t need them. The pair know that and as such have kept the tune limited to Riya, the drums, the bass and a consistent feeling of emotive travel. It’s a fitting title tune for his 4th long play and an even better benchmark for others to aim at.
Lucy Kitchen is another recognizable name, most widely known for her features on Technimatic’s two albums Desire Paths and Better Perspective. In Surfacing her uniquely dulcet tones sweep the brush of melancholia over the track in a similar fashion yet with a different backdrop, namely punchy amens and stunning low frequency depth. Surfacing feels minimal but also full, the reliance on percussion for instrumentation injecting substantial character whilst avoiding cheesiness; it’s satisfyingly solid not frustratingly thin. If I had to choose this would be my favorite, absolutely stunning.
If Surfacing lacks any voluptuous instrumentation, Little Bird is the opposite as it opens with a gust of soothing strings that shimmer into inviting piano chords. It feels like the first two tracks from Northpoint display two divergent approaches to making you think; Surfacing all took place in the foreground, rattling drums included. Little Bird, on the other hand, lets the small details and serene background impart its meaning. The vocal sample is unobtrusive but drips down into the lows, fusing the top of the range to the bottom and turning what could’ve been a fairly average track into a gorgeous mirage of faint string touches and piano bumps.
After all the wistful glances and half-closed eyes in the previous, Born To Spin featuring Dynamite MC makes for a refreshing change with a production that smacks of Random Movement or something out of the V Recordings camp. Its template is a bubbling synth line, akin to a bouncy ball rattling around an echo chamber it slots into the percussive groove, ready and waiting for a funky set of bars to finish it off. Dynamite MC provides just that, his faux-american sound can sometimes come off tacky but Bcee’s production suits him idyllically, his free-flowing cascade indicating that the pair of them were indeed Born To Spin.
The last two tracks I want to mention are More Than Words featuring Charlotte Haining and Dead Reckoning. Charlotte Haining is a vocalist who knows drum n bass inside out and More Than Words does a fantastic job at escalating soft into forceful with a buildup that piles up tension, folding it in one layer at a time. The gratification on its release is immense, an unloaded spring of whistling energy, stretched out and subsumed into a greater whole of raw movement. Dead Reckoning is batting for the same team in a sense because whilst Bcee has opted for Mohican Sun-esque synths instead of sultry vocals, it’s the drawn out back end that makes them both shine. Dead Reckoning is probably the heaviest hitter in Northpoint, a moody growler than improves the LP lots purely through the greater diversity it brings.
The key component of Northpoint is its rolling nature. Bcee doesn’t stray away from fast-moving, energetic music even when crossing between sub-genres, a nod to all the heads out there who hate halftime or drum n bass that tries to switch it up rhythmically speaking. I think perhaps some more variety in that respect would improve the album, but maybe that’s just not who Bcee is or what he enjoys making, and it’s clear that he’s gotten even better at the style he does enjoy making.
There were also in my opinion a few quite forgettable tracks on Northpoint, which might be difficult to avoid bearing in mind there are 14 in total plus of course everyone’s different tastes, but again diversity is the spice of life, so a wider mix of sounds would’ve been a positive change.
As said earlier though Bcee is much more than simply a guy who makes albums, he and Spearhead are a conduit for some absolutely stunning music that certainly ranks right at the top of the drum n bass pecking order. The cuts described above and a few others all fit into that category, so make sure you pre-order the album on Itunes – release date September 8th.